Release Date: 25 May 1979
Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
Production Company: Mosfilm
As I started watching Stalker, I started having flashbacks. Filmed in sepia tones with long shots and slow pans, the camera spends a lot of time focused on grimy interiors and muddy landscapes. As I watched absolutely nothing happen in great detail, I felt like I was reliving Sátántangó. Granted, Stalker is only a third of the length of Sátántangó, but it’s still a long time to watch the back of three men’s heads as they walk slowly through meadows and tunnels.
Stalker is a science fiction story about the Zone, an area struck by a meteor and possibly even visited by extraterrestrials, where the normal laws of physics don’t apply. Within the Zone is the Room where anyone who enters is granted their deepest desires. The Zone is encircled by a military cordon, but guides known as “stalkers” will lead people past the military and the presumed hazards of the Zone for a cost. In this film we see a Stalker (Alexander Kaidanovsky) take two clients, the Writer (Anatoly Solonitsyn) and the Professor (Nikolai Grinko), into the Zone.
Much like The Wizard of Oz, once they enter the Zone, the film changes from sepia tones to full (albeit muted) color. Unlike The Wizard of Oz, the hazards seem to be entirely in the mind of the protagonists and they spend a lot of time debating philosophy and religion. The Room ends up being a metaphor for belief and futility of existence. Stalker is clearly a well-made film with excellent cinematography, sound design, and set design. Everyone on Letterboxd raves about it in their reviews. But watching this movie felt like a slog for me and left me feeling cold.